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Site Conditions for Astronomy at the South Pole J.w.v. Storeya, M.C.B. Ashleya, MG. Burtona and M.A. Phillipsa
 

Summary: Site Conditions for Astronomy at the South Pole
J.w.v. Storeya, M.C.B. Ashleya, MG. Burtona and M.A. Phillipsa
aJojflt Australian Centre for Astrophysical Research in Antarctica,
School of Physics, University of New South Wales, Sydney NSW 2052, Australia
ABSTRACT
We discuss the site conditions for astronomy at the South Pole and over the Antarctic plateau. We find that
these conditions are the most favorable on Earth for sensitive observations at thermal infrared and sub-millimeter
wavelengths. We further discuss plans to develop infrared facilities to exploit this potential.
Keywords: Antarctica, Site Testing, Astronomy, Infrared, Seeing
1. INTRODUCTION
The Antarctic plateau provides unique conditions on the Earth for the conduct of observational astronomy. The
air is thin, dry and cold, with stable weather; these attributes all offer gains to the observational astronomer. The
conditions are quite different to those experienced at Antarctic coastal locations, which are frequently subject to
violent storms.
The plateau is over 3,000 m in elevation, rising to more than 4,000 m at Dome A. An average year-round
temperature of _500C, falling to _900C at times, vastly reduces the thermal background in the near--JR. The
precipitable water vapour content of the air is typically around 250pm and can fall below 100pm, opening up new
windows in the infrared and sub-millimeter regimes to ground-based observation. The lack of a diurnal temperature
cycle and the low wind speeds on the highest parts of the Antarctic plateau provide conditions of extraordinarily
stability, benefiting a wide range of observational programs.

  

Source: Ashley, Michael C. B. - School of Physics, University of New South Wales

 

Collections: Physics